Eyes on Hungary: Leading Eastern Europe Away From Socialism, Yet Again

Sunday’s Hungarian elections placed in power a huge conservative majority, and leader, for four full years.

Andras Simonyi
Pajamas Media
4/13/2010

Hungary was an icebreaker for change in Eastern Europe in the 1980s, progressing well after the fall of the Iron Curtain and making a remarkable transition to democracy and a market economy. Hungary’s performance was, for years, the envy of other democracies in transition: by 2002 it was attracting more foreign direct investment than all other countries in the region combined. It was among the first in the region to become a member of NATO and the European Union. A country of great intellectual resources and a well-trained labor force, with one of the most stunning cities in the world, Budapest, as its capital.

Eight years ago, a left-of-center government was elected.

It was going to be a continuing success. But complacency set in, lavish overspending on social welfare began, and necessary reforms of the welfare system and government were stalled. Wages rose, and Hungary soon lost its competitive edge. Two years later, in 2006, the social-liberal government of the socialist Ferenc Gyurcsany was reelected — only to admit weeks later that he had been:

… lying to the public about the economy day in and day out.

Riots and a loss of credibility for his government followed. Corruption reached unprecedented levels; international relations got messy. Hungary drifted politically and economically for the next three years…

…Hungary is ready to leave socialism behind. The incoming Viktor Orban has his task cut out for him — the worst part of stabilizing the economy was done by the caretaker government, but growth has to be achieved still, and shrewd economic policy is the only way. He must, with determination, fight corruption. He will soon have to deliver some results to the impatient and tired public amidst incredibly high expectations. His challenge is to build national consensus beyond his formidable parliamentary majority…

The entire article is at Pajamas Media.

Comments are closed.